The Orthodox Christian Church of Cyprus said Friday that it is "deeply distressed" over the arrest of a parish priest on suspicion of trafficking drugs to the island from abroad.
The Church said in a statement that the "abhorrent actions" of Father Panayiotis Triantafyllou, a Greek national who had been in charge of a suburban Nicosia parish, have scandalized the faithful and constitute a "black spot" on the Church body.
It said Triantafyllou had already been suspended from his duties and that his arrest pre-empted an ongoing Church investigation into his conduct following a litany of complaints against him "regarding a variety of offenses."
Police arrested the 38-year-old priest at Cyprus' main Larnaca airport late Wednesday after discovering three kilograms of marijuana in his luggage. Triantafyllou had arrived on a flight from Greece.
A Cyprus court ordered Triantafyllou to remain in police custody for eight days until investigators completed their probe.
Local media reports said the priest told the court he was only transporting the drugs for others and that he needed the money because of financial problems he was having. He also told the court that he was remorseful and offered to assist police in their investigation.